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 SPRINGFIELD Abraham Lincoln became a resident of Springfield on Wednesday, March 15, 1837, and continued to live there until his removal, Saturday, February 11, 1860, to assume his duties as President of the United States. He was accepted as partner by his friend and former commander, Major John T. Stuart, and shared an office in which politics was the major interest and law was incidentally practiced. His partnership with Stuart continued for four years, from April 27, 1837, until April 14, 1841. His next partnership was with Judge Stephen T. Logan, and extended from April 14, 1841, to September 20, 1843.
He then formed a partnership with William H. Herndon which began on the day of the dissolution of the partnership with Judge Logan and was never formally dissolved. Lincoln had a working alliance with some lawyer in almost every county seat which he habitually visited, whereby the local lawyer secured the cases and worked them up, and Lincoln took them in charge as senior counsel when they came to trial.[18] These were not formal partnerships, though they were often so spoken of. This method gave him a large practice, and[Pg 72] brought him into contact and collision with the ablest lawyers in central and southern Illinois.
In 1838 and again in 1840 he was re-elected to the Legislature, and showed little of the ability which he later manifested, but was a faithful member, and he flung himself with ardor into the noisy campaign of 1840.
In 1842 he had his "duel" with James T. Shields, and later had the good sense to be ashamed of it.
In 1846 he ran for Congress, and at this third attempt was elected, taking his seat December 6, 1847, and continuing for two years.
The slavery issue was becoming dominant. Lincoln was not at the outset an abolitionist, and was unwilling to be placed in a position where he would be compelled to imperil his political chances by taking too definite a stand on this divisive measure; but on March 3, 1837, he introduced into the Legislature a vigorous protest against the aggressions of the pro-slavery party, a protest which probably failed to affect his political future because it contained only one signature beside his own. Only a few months later occurred the martyrdom of Owen Lovejoy at Alton, and the slavery issue was no longer one to be kept in the background. It is good to be able to remember that Lincoln's first protest against it was recorded before it had become so burning an issue. He himself dated his hostility to slavery to what he saw of a slave market in New Orleans when he visited that city as a boat hand. But he was unable to remember a time when he had not believed that slavery was wrong.
On other moral questions he now began to speak. He delivered an address on Temperance on Washington's Birthday in 1842. His first notable oratorical flight outside the spheres of politics and law was delivered before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield on January 27, 1837, and was on "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions." It took him longer to say it than it did at Gettysburg, and it was not so well said, but the rather florid lecture was intended to mean essentially the same thing which he later expressed much more simply and effectively.
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His most important case that had a bearing on the slavery issue was that of Bailey vs. Cromwell, when he was thirty-two years of age. In preparing to argue before the Supreme Court of Illinois in favor of the freedom of a slave girl, he learned the legal aspects of the question which later he was to decide on its military and ethical character.
In 1858 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States Senate against Stephen A. Douglas, and conducted that series of debates which made him known throughout the nation as the champion of freedom in the territories, and of the faith that the nation could not forever endure half slave and half free. In the autumn of 1859 he visited Kansas, and was hailed as the friend of freedom.
On Tuesday evening, February 27, 1860, he delivered an address in Cooper union in New York City, an address which greatly extended his fame. On the preceding Sunday he attended Plymouth Church and heard and met Henry Ward Beecher.
On May 16, 1860, he was nominated for the Presidency of the United States by a great convention meeting in a temporary structure known as "the Wigwam" standing on Lake and Market Streets near the junction of the two branches of Chicago River. On November 7, 1860, he was elected President.
On Friday, November 4, 1842, he was married to Miss Mary Todd. She was born in Lexington, Kentucky, December 13, 1818, and had come to Springfield to be with her sister, Mrs. Ninian W. Edwards, in whose home the marriage occurred. Concerning this marriage and the events which went before and after, much has been written and nothing need here be repeated.
When Lincoln arrived in Springfield, he found himself for the first time in his life living in a town with churches that held service every Sunday, and each church under the care of its own minister. Springfield had several churches, and he did not at first attend any of them. This does not seem to have been on account of any hostility which he entertained toward them, but his first months in Springfield were[Pg 74] months of great loneliness and depression. He was keenly conscious of his poverty and of his social disqualifications. He was still tortured by his unhappy love affair with Mary Owens. More than a year after his arrival in Springfield he wrote to her that he had not yet attended church and giving as the reason that he would not know how to behave himself:
"This thing of living in Springfield is rather a dull business, after all; at least, it is so to me. I am quite as lonesome here as I ever was anywhere in my life. I have been spoken to by but one woman since I have been here, and should not have been by her if she could have avoided it. I have never been to church yet, nor probably shall not be soon. I stay away because I am conscious I should not know how to behave myself. I am often thinking about what we said of your coming to live at Springfield. I am afraid you would not be satisfied. There is a great deal of flourishing about in carriages here, which it would be your doom to see without sharing it. You would have to be poor, without the means of hiding your poverty."
Lincoln's habit with respect to churchgoing underwent no very marked improvement after his marriage until the year 1850. He came, however, to know a number of ministers[19] and to sustain somewhat pleasant relations with some of them.
Mary Todd had been reared a Presbyterian. For a time[Pg 75] after her marriage she attended and was a member of the Episcopal Church. On February 1, 1850,[20] their second son, Edward Baker Lincoln, died. The little boy was between three and four years old. The rector of the Episcopal Church was absent from the city and the funeral service was conducted by Rev. James Smith, D.D., of the First Presbyterian Church. A friendship was established between them, and Mr. Lincoln took a pew in Dr. Smith's church and he and Mrs. Lincoln attended there regularly.
In a later chapter we shall have occasion to consider more directly and at length the influence of Dr. Smith upon Mr. Lincoln. We now confine ourselves to the fact that Lincoln now became a church attendant under the ministry of a preacher quite different from any he had previously known.
James Smith was a large and stalwart Scotchman. He is described as Websterian in appearance and in the strength of logical argument. Lamon speaks of him in contemptuous phrase which reflects little credit upon Lamon, describing him[Pg 76] as a man of slender ability. Whatever Dr. Smith was, he was not a man of meager intellectual power. He had a massive mind and one well trained. He had a voice of great carrying power and was accustomed to speaking to large congregations both indoors and out. He was a wide reader and a skilled controversialist. In his own young manhood he had been a deist, and when he was converted he entered with great ardor into various discussions with men who opposed the Christian faith. One such discussion he had engaged in with a widely known infidel author. The debate had continued evening after evening in a Southern city for nearly three weeks and Dr. Smith had emerged from it triumphant.
Dr. Smith was just the kind of man to win the admiration of Lincoln at that time. There is some reason to believe that Dr. Smith's three weeks' debate with C. G. Olmsted at Columbus, Mississippi, suggested to Lincoln the idea of his debate with Stephen A. Douglas.
That Lincoln's views underwent some change at this time there is the best reason to believe. Lincoln himself declared to his brother-in-law, Ninian W. Edwards, that his views had been modified.
Lamon and Herndon both seek to represent Dr. Smith as an officious, self-advertising meddler, who sought to win renown for himself by proclaiming Mr. Lincoln's conversion through his personal influence. The claims and conduct of Dr. Smith do not seem to merit any such rebuke. Whatever Dr. Smith claimed, Mr. Lincoln knew about it and was not offended by it. Subsequently he appointed Dr. Smith's son United States Consul to Dundee, Scotland, and on the son's return to the United States Mr. Lincoln appointed his father, who by that time had retired from the ministry, to succeed him in that position. Even Lamon is compelled to admit that Dr. Smith's claims were made with Mr. Lincoln's knowledge, and says:
"Mr. Lincoln permitted himself to be misunderstood and misrepresented by some enthusiastic ministers and exhorters[Pg 77] with whom he came in contact. Among these was the Rev. Mr. Smith, then pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Springfield, and afterward consul at Dundee, in Scotland, under Mr. Lincoln's appointment."—Lamon, Life of Lincoln, p. 498.
This statement is thoroughly discreditable, and that which follows in Lamon's account of Mr. Lincoln's relations with Dr. Smith is a thorough misrepresentation, as we shall later discover. Lamon was not a deliberate liar; neither was he in this matter free from prejudice; and he wrote with reckless disregard of some facts which he did not know but ought to have known, and which the reader of this book shall know.
About this time Mr. Lincoln received word that his own father was dying, and was prevented from making him a personal visit, which, apparently, he was not wholly sorry for. On January 12, 1851, he wrote to his stepbrother, John D. Johnson:
"I sincerely hope father may recover his health, but, tell him to remember to call upon and confide in our great and good and merciful Maker, who will not turn away from him in any extremity. He notes the fall of a sparrow, and numbers the hairs of our head, and He will not forget the dying man who puts his trust in Him. Say to him that if we could meet now it is doubtful whether it would not be more painful than pleasant, but that if it be his lot to go now, he will soon have a joyous meeting with many loved ones gone before, and where the rest of us, through the help of God, hope ere long to join them."
Even Herndon grew indignant when anyone attempted to explain away that letter, or to make it seem anything less than it purported to be. He said in his letter to Mr. Abbott, under date of February 18, 1870:
"It has been said to me that Mr. Lincoln wrote the above letter to an old man simply to cheer him up in his last moments, and that the writer did not believe what he said. The question[Pg 78] is, Was Mr. Lincoln an honest and truthful man? If he was, he wrote that letter honestly, believing it. It has to me the sound, the ring, of an honest utterance. I admit that Mr. Lincoln, in his moments of melancholy and terrible gloom, was living on the border land between theism and atheism, sometimes quite wholly dwelling in atheism. In his happier moments he would swing back to theism, and dwell lovingly there.... So it seems to me that Mr. Lincoln believed in God and immortality as well as heaven—a place."—Lamon, p. 495.
Another incident comes to us from this period and is related by Captain Gilbert J. Greene. He was a young printer living in Springfield, and at the time of this incident was eighteen years of age. Whether the story was in any way exaggerated we may not certainly know, but it is here given as he himself furnished it for publication and is now printed with one or two other Lincoln stories in a small volume in limited edition:
"'Greene,' said Lincoln to him one day on the streets of Springfield, 'I've got to ride out into the country tomorrow to draw a will for a woman who is believed to be on her deathbed. I may want you for a witness. If you haven't anything else to do I'd like to have you go along.'
"The invitation was promptly accepted.
"On the way to the farmhouse the lawyer and the printer chatted delightfully, cementing a friendship that was fast ripening into real affection. Arriving at the house, the woman was found to be near her end.
"With great gentleness Lincoln drew up the document disposing of the property as the woman desired. Neighbors and relatives were present, making it unnecessary to call on Greene to witness the instrument. After the signing and witnessing of the will the woman turned to Lincoln and said, with a smile:
"'Now I have my affairs for this world arranged satisfactorily. I am thankful to say that long before this I have made preparation for the other life I am so soon to enter. Many years ago I sought and found Christ as my Saviour. He has been my stay and comfort through the years, and is[Pg 79] now near to carry me over the river of death. I do not fear death, Mr. Lincoln. I am really glad that my time has come, for loved ones have gone before me and I rejoice in the hope of meeting them so soon.'
"Instinctively the friends drew nearer the bedside. As the dying woman had addressed her words more directly to Lincoln than to the others, Lincoln, evincing sympathy in every look and gesture, bent toward her and said:
"'Your faith in Christ is wise and strong; your hope of a future life is blessed. You are to be congratulated in passing through life so usefully, and into the life beyond so hopefully.'
"'Mr. Lincoln,' said she, 'won't you read a few verses out of the Bible for me?'
"A member of the family offered him the family Bible. Instead of taking it, he began reciting from memory the twenty-third Psalm, laying emphasis upon 'Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.' Still without referring to the Bible, Lincoln began with the first part of the fourteenth chapter of John:
"'Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me.
"'In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
"'And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.'
"After he had given these and other quotations from the Scriptures, he recited various familiar comforting hymns, closing with 'Rock of Ages, cleft for me.' Then, with a tenderness and pathos that enthralled everyone in the room, he spoke the last stanza—
"'While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.'
"While Lincoln was reciting this stanza a look of peace and resignation lit up the countenance of the dying woman.[Pg 80] In a few minutes more, while the lawyer and the printer were there, she passed away.
"The journey back to Springfield was begun in silence. It was the younger man who finally said:
"'Mr. Lincoln, ever since what has just happened back there in the farmhouse, I have been thinking that it is very extraordinary that you should so perfectly have acted as pastor as well as attorney.'
"When the answer to this suggestion finally was given—and it was not given at once—Lincoln said:
"'God, and Eternity, and Heaven were very near to me today.'"—Charles T. White, Lincoln the Comforter, pp. 11-16.
Reference should be made in our review of this period to Lincoln's stories as exhibiting an important phase of his character.
It is not easy to decide what stories actually were Lincoln's. Very few of them are to be found in their original setting, for he did not commonly tell stories when he made speeches. They were told in personal interviews, in hours of recreation, and especially in taverns and other loafing places. The period of their greatest vogue was that in which Lincoln traveled the circuit. Most of the successful lawyers of that day were story-tellers; and in the evenings of court-week they swapped yarns with local wits. Lincoln was the most famous of a considerable group of noted Illinois story-tellers.
During his lifetime he was asked about how many of the stories attributed to him were his own, and he said he thought about half. A much larger discount would need to be made now. Many such stories Lincoln probably never heard.
The stories which lawyers told to each other and to groups of men were not all of them overnice; and Lincoln's stories were like the rest. He did not always confine himself to strictly proper stories. But in those that are authentic and not quite proper, it is to be observed that the coarseness was incidental to the real point of the story. I have not heard any story, authenticated as Lincoln's, which is actually obscene.
It has been my privilege to examine a considerable quan[Pg 81]tity of unpublished writing of Lincoln's, including some manuscripts that have been withheld for the reason that they were not quite proper. Of these I can say that they are few in number, and that the element of vulgarity is very small. Excepting only the "First Chronicles of Reuben," which was a rude backwoods joke, written in his boyhood, and in full accord with the standards of humor current in the time and general environment, there is not very much that one could wish had been destroyed.
The frankest piece of questionable literature from Lincoln's pen in mature years, so far as I am aware, is in a private collection, and its owner does not permit it to be copied. Not many people are permitted to see it. It is probably the least attractive scrap of Lincoln's writing extant that dates from his mature years. It is undated, but belongs to the period of his life on the circuit. It is a piece of extravagant nonsense, written in about twenty lines on a quarter sheet of legal cap, and is probably the effort to recall and record something that he had heard and which amused him. Its whole point is in the transposition of the initial letters of compound words, or words in juxtaposition in a sentence, such as a speaker sometimes makes in a moment of mental confusion. Thus a cotton-patch is a "potten-catch" and a fence-corner is a "cence-forner." Every clause contains one or more of these absurdities, until a sense of boisterous mirth is awakened at the possibility that there should be so many of them. Most of them are harmless as the two above quoted, but there are two or three that are not in good taste. They are not vile nor obscene, but not very pretty. Lincoln wasted ten minutes of spare time in writing out this rather ingenious bit of nonsense, and it is not worth more than that length of discussion. It is probably the worst bit of extant writing of Lincoln's mature years, written in the period of his circuit-riding, and it has little to commend it and not a great deal to condemn.
Lincoln's religious life in Springfield has been and is the subject of violent controversy. Much that has been written on both sides bears the marks of prejudice and exhibits[Pg 82] internal evidence of having been consciously or unconsciously distorted. In a later chapter it will come before us for review and analysis. Of it we may now remind ourselves that in this period covering nearly a quarter of a century Lincoln was developing in many ways. He emerged from grinding poverty into a condition in which he owned a home and had a modest sum of money in the bank. From an ill-trained fledgling lawyer, compelled by his poverty to share a bed in a friend's room above the store, he had come to be a leader at the Illinois bar. From an obscure figure in State politics he had come to be the recognized leader of a political party that was destined to achieve national success and to determine the policies of the nation with little interruption for more than half a century. Out of a condition of great mental uncertainty in all matters relating to domestic relations he had come into a settled condition as the husband of a brilliant and ambitious woman and the father of a family of sons to whom he was devotedly attached. For the first time in his life he lived in a community where there were buildings wholly dedicated to the purposes of public worship; and after a considerable period of non-church attendance, and perhaps another of infrequent or irregular attendance, he had become a regular attendant and supporter of a church whose minister was his personal friend and whom he greatly admired.
During his years in Springfield, Mr. Lincoln's political ideals had undergone marked change. His experience in the Illinois Legislature is not discreditable; neither does it manifest any notably high ideals. Nor was he brilliantly successful in his one term in Congress. Lincoln was an honest politician, in the sense that he kept his promises and stood by his announced convictions. But it is impossible to read into his legislative history any such lofty purpose as later possessed him. He and the other members of the "Long Nine" log-rolled in orthodox political fashion, and won from Governor Ford the title "spared monuments of popular wrath."[21]
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As a jury lawyer, also, his arts were those of the successful trial lawyer of the period. So far as the author has been able to find, there was no unworthy chapter in all this long history. The story, for instance, that in the trial of Armstrong Lincoln used an almanac of another year and won his case by fraud, has, as the author is convinced, no foundation whatever in fact. On the contrary, Lincoln was at a serious disadvantage in any case in whose justice he did not fully believe.
But there came a time when Lincoln was more than a shrewd and honest politician; more than a successful jury lawyer. In the brief autobiographical sketch which he prepared for Mr. Fell, he speaks of his work at the end of his term in Congress, and says:
"In 1846 I was once elected to the lower House of Congress. Was not a candidate for re-election. From 1849 to 1854, both inclusive, practiced law more assiduously than ever before. Always a Whig in politics, and generally on the Whig electoral tickets, making active canvasses, I was losing interest in politics when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused me again. What I have done since is pretty well known."
He expanded this brief statement somewhat in the sketch which he furnished a little later to Scripps as a basis of his campaign biography:
"Upon his return from Congress, he went to the practice of the law with greater earnestness than ever before.... In 1854 his profession had almost superseded the thought of politics in his mind, when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused him as he had never been before."
The full effect of this unprecedented arousing was manifest in his speech at Springfield on June 16, 1858, the "House-Divided-Against-Itself" speech.
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Lincoln himself is our authority for the statement that the moral aspects of the slavery issue called him back into politics and roused him as he never before had been aroused. Politically, at least, Abraham Lincoln had been born again. Nor had it been a period of spiritual inaction or retrogression, as we have seen and shall see yet further.
In addition to all this he had known the discipline of sorrow, and had had occasion to test religion on the practical side of its availability for comfort in time of bereavement. He had now been chosen to a position of responsibility such as no man in all the history of his nation had ever been called upon to occupy.
On the day before he was fifty-two years old he stood upon the platform of a railroad train ready to leave Springfield for the last time. He did not know that it was the last time, but he had a haunting presentiment that it might be so. With tears filling his eyes and in a voice choked with emotion he spoke his last words to his neighbors and friends. Just what he said we shall never know. A shorthand reporter endeavored to write it down, but with indifferent success. Hon. Newton Bateman, State Superintendent of Schools, of whom we shall hear later, hurried to his office after the train pulled out and wrote down what, judged by any reasonable test, must be considered a very satisfactory report of it. Lincoln sat down in the train after it had left Springfield and endeavored to recall the exact language which he had used, and in this was assisted by his private secretary, John Hay. Of these three, and a considerable number of other versions, the Illinois Historical Society has chosen the third as the authentic version. It represents what Lincoln wished to be remembered as having said, and very nearly what he actually did say. This version of his farewell address, representing the deep feeling of his heart at the hour of parting, and recorded on the same day as embodying his deliberate revision of the extempore utterance, is taken from Nicolay and Hay's edition of his Life and of his Works. It is that which was cast in bronze and placed in the year of his Centennial, in front of the State House at Springfield. If one would meas[Pg 85]ure the growth of Abraham Lincoln intellectually and spiritually he might ask, What kind of an address in comparison with this Lincoln might have delivered on his departure from Kentucky in 1816, from Indiana in 1830, or from New Salem in 1837? The answer is so emphatic as almost to make the question absurd; but it is worth while to ask the question before we read again the familiar words of his farewell address. No one reading these few sentences can question the sincerity of Lincoln's utterance or the depth of his religious feeling:
"My friends: No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a youth to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return, with the task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being who ever attended him I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail. Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."—Nicolay and Hay, III, 291.

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